In the wake of Elsevier’s acquisition of bepress, social media has been very active with a host of reactions, all predictably passionate and most understandably venting frustration. Clearly this event has touched a nerve within the academic community. Responses range from restructuring the entire ecosystem to finding smaller component systems to new training programs. The common theme is that academic institutions want/need more control. Many now realize that the high cost of a bepress subscription also included exposing their institution’s valued content to the whims of the merger and acquisition process. Once again this universal truth has been hammered home: commercial firms operate within a competitive marketplace to satisfy their shareholders.
At LYRASIS, we, too, are watching. As the new reality of this acquisition settles in, we are considering how to offer thoughtful and measured responses to these market-driven events. How should our members think through the recurring problem of large commercial publishers acquiring open-access repositories? How can we, as a non-profit organization, assist in the process? To that end, we’d propose you consider several alternatives.
Open-source software platforms offer many benefits: they are non-proprietary, are governed/driven by their own community, are freely available to deploy, and include a network of service providers who can assist in the process. At LYRASIS, we are strong believers in open source; it’s a part of our DNA. We administer the organizational homes for two communities and operate hosting services for three.
Islandora, a full-fledged digital asset management (DAM) system, is one such open-source platform. Initially developed by the University of Prince Edward Island, today it has a growing, self-sustaining community with installations on five continents. It is governed by the Islandora Foundation, its Board of Directors, and two community committees. Community members, allocating their staff resources, develop the software. It uniquely combines Fedora as its repository and Drupal as its front-end, both of which are also open-source. There is neither proprietary code nor the danger of acquisition by a commercial firm.
One of the (truly) many general use cases it supports is an institutional repository. Known as Islandora Scholar, it includes these features:
- Administration and access to ETDs
- Metadata schema for citations and theses
- Embargo periods
- Search engine optimization
- Bookmarks and bibliographies
- RoMEO integration
- …. and others too many to mention here.
Among the full DAM functionality it provides are the capabilities to:
- Ingest, describe, and provide access to digital assets, including video.
- Upload batches of content for efficiency
- Configure web theming to match your institutional branding
- Preserve digital masters and link them to their access/derivative copies, keeping everything together.
- Support a wide variety of metadata schema, including Dublin Core, MODS, and PREMIS
- Track usage stats with Google Analytics
- Migrate data from bepress and ContentDM using community-developed tools:
At LYRASIS, yes, we do offer Islandora hosting services, but at the same time, we are good community citizens. One of our central tenants when we host open-source software is also to be a contributing member to that community. We directly contribute to the Islandora community with membership, sitting on the Foundation Board, and contributing code. We do this because we are a mission-driven, member organization whose principal motive is delivering service back to our community.
Our Islandora hosting service utilizes the community-adopted version of the platform, allowing us to stay on the straight upgrade path. We have 24/7 monitoring, secure daily data backups, migration, training, and ongoing version/software support. We also are launching a (LYRASIS-developed) direct integration of Islandora with ArchivesSpace (which is an open-source archival management system.) With this integration, users are able to connect robust collection descriptions in ArchivesSpace with their associated digital items captured in Islandora.
In the meantime, please join the conversation. In many ways, it is just beginning. We will be embarking on a series of webinars in the coming weeks focused on this broad issue. One will feature Islandora Scholar with presentations from LYRASIS members who have already migrated their IR’s from bepress to Islandora, and others will describe our partnership with the University of Michigan and their Fulcrum publishing platform, currently in a beta-testing phase. We want to hear from you, and more importantly, provide you with the opportunity to talk with your peers who are also examining this issue. Stay tuned for announcements of these and future webinars in this new series. Your voice is critical to the continued understanding and development of platforms providing open access to and institutional control of your content.